December 22, 2011

The Green Slime (1969)

WATCHING BAD MOVIES CAN BE FUN. If a movie has the right combination of poor elements, it can be a blast to sit through. (I taught Dash about this with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.)

So when I saw that the long-heralded bad movie The Green Slime was airing on Turner Classic Movies (on the heels of a remastered DVD last year), I decided to see if it was possible to have a good time with this supposedly horrible flick.

With a giant asteroid heading toward Earth, a group of astronauts led by Commanders Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) and Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel) disembark from a nearby space station to blow it up (sound familiar?). The mission is successful, but they return to the station unknowingly bringing back a gooey green substance that mutates into one-eyed tentacled monsters that feed off electricity. Soon the station is crawling with them, and members of the station’s staff are being zapped by the giant creatures.


The Green Slime opens with an effective, mysterious shot of space – one that’s immediately marred as an obviously miniature space station comes into frame, orbiting in fits and starts as if the effects person who's spinning it is getting a wrist cramp.

Things don’t get any better from there. The film’s first 30 minutes, focusing on the destruction of the asteroid threatening Earth, features long stretches of dead silence as our heroes make their journey. No dialogue, no sound effects, not even a musical score. This is probably why I fell asleep three different times trying to get past this opening sequence.

Things go from painfully dull to laughably bad once the asteroid is destroyed. The biggest offender is the film’s special effects, including:
  • Set pieces that often make The Green Slime feel like a Godzilla movie without Godzilla
  • Rocket ships that look like something from a kid’s backyard launcher, or maybe the old Thunderbirds show
  • Our heroes “floating” in space, obviously suspended by wires
  • The titular green slime – gooey blobs brought to life by air bladders and the type of reverse film effect usually reserved for such high art as the Purina Cat Chow commercials
When we finally see the creatures that are spawned by the green slime, they’re revealed to be rubber-suited, hulking green beings who walk upright, have wavy tentacles and a giant red eye, and sound like baby ducklings stuck in an echo chamber.

If the effects aren’t bad enough to torpedo The Green Slime, other aspects of the film provide additional ammo to sink it:
  • A ridiculous script with lines like, “Since that’s the way it is, let’s be sure that’s the way it is.”
  • Random goofs, such as a gaping wound in Jack’s arm that mysteriously disappears (or rapidly heals) by the next scene later in the day
  • Realizing they can’t shoot the aliens for fear of their spilled blood turning into more aliens, the crew resorts to – I’m not making this up – shoving hospital beds at the creatures and throwing helmets at them. (After that, they break out the heavy artillery: flashlights and flood lamps.)
The Green Slime was shot in Tokyo by Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, who knew very little English and relied on a translator to give direction (many of the extras were American GIs from local military bases). It’s hard to believe he would go from directing this debacle to helming the Japanese sequences of the highly acclaimed Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora! the very next year, after legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was fired. Fukasaku also went on to direct the cult classic (and precursor to The Hunger Games) Battle Royale.

There are good bad movies, and there are bad bad movies. Despite occasional moments of cheese-tastic hilarity, The Green Slime lands largely in the latter category.

Is it suitable for your kids?
The Green Slime is rated G, but it’s a “’60s G” in that the newly created MPAA was less scrutinous about questionable content in its all-ages G rating. Several men are electrocuted to death by the alien creatures; one man falls to his demise, his head splatting blood on impact; and we see the tattered, electrocuted body of one victim. There are also a few profanities, including several “hells” and “bitch” (as in “complain”). Tweens and older is probably the appropriate age.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Highly doubtful. Even if she’s into watching bad movies for fun, there are better choices than The Green Slime.

Fall in love with the groovy, out-of-place, deliciously awful theme song:

The Green Slime
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Screenwriters: Bill Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair
* Stars: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi, Bud Widom, Ted Gunther
* MPAA Rating: G


StuartOhQueue said...

This guy looks like something straight out of "Dr. Who."

James (SeattleDad) said...

I wonder how bad the non remastered version was. Thanks for taking one for the team.

Mitchell Craig said...

I remember seeing this when I was ten years old. It has a weird charm about it...all the more so when you realize that Jaeckel and co-star Luzianna Paluzzi had roles in fairly respectable films prior to this (The Dirty Dozen and Thunderball, respectively).

Anonymous said...

Green Slime is one of the best of the bad films. Thanks for posting a picture of the handsome Robert Horton and the lovely Bond girl, Luciana Puluzzi. Heard that Mr. Horton (and his wife) received an all expenses paid trip to Japan. And he loved Japan.

Thanks for the review.


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